“It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you work with turkeys.”
Do you remember that sign/poster/bumper sticker? It has been around for quite a few years. I was reminded of it recently, but not quite in the context you normally think of.
As you know, the sign is generally meant as a put-down for one’s co-workers (or boss or subordinates). I don’t know of anyone who views it in a complimentary fashion. And, of course, sometimes an office wit will add “Birds of a feather flock together” to the sign as a put-down for the original poster (sort of a “it takes one to know one” retort you hear from schoolyards.)
I could take this in a couple of different directions… such as “whose fault is it that you work with turkeys?”, or “you get more of what you focus on… so why are you focusing on that?”.
But this blog is about helping you soar to success, not placing blame or encouraging one-upmanship.
No, I would like to return to the original context that brought this sign to mind and offer a different perspective on it… a reminder that who we spend our time with is vitally important.
In “What’s Your Average?“, I wrote about the truism that you are the average of the five people you are around the most. In it, I also talk about why that may be and what you can do to increase your average.
So, in that light I would like us to return to that eagles/turkeys sign. With that understanding, the sign is true… not as a put-down, but as an observation of how life works.
If you really are an eagle, it will be hard to soar when you are spending your time with heavy-bodied turkeys who can hardly get off the ground. Soon, your own flight muscles will atrophy. When you do take flight, you will easily tire, your ability to navigate will be rusty, and your skills at reading the wind and soaring on them will diminish.
Additionally, your self-confidence will be shaken. You will start to identify more with turkeys than with eagles.
What if you really are a turkey? If so, you will feel right at home and wouldn’t think about flying. You are comfortable where you are and think your companions are fantastic. Life is good, work is good, your flock is good. No need to change.
So, if you begin to suspect that there is more to life, then you may be an eagle who is starting to yearn for the skies. In that case, you need to take the lesson of the sign… it is hard to soar with the eagles when you keep hanging out with turkeys.
But the answer is not to put them down for being turkeys. You need to change who you hang out with. The responsibility lies with you.
Will that mean a job change for you? Possibly. Will it mean changing your church, your club, or your fraternal affilitations? Maybe. Will it mean getting new friends? More than likely. Is that scary? It can be.
However, you don’t need to make an abrupt switch and go “cold-turkey”. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.) Instead, begin to look for others who are already in the skies where you want to be. (They already have some of what you are wanting.) Then begin to find ways to spend time with them.
In other words, don’t break off contact with your current circle of friends or associates — simply adjust the amount of time you are spending with them. Instead, find someone you connect with who is also closer to where you want to be… and develop a relationship (friendship) with them.
The idea here is to surround yourself both with people you admire (those soaring eagles) and with your current friends and associates (I am sure they aren’t all turkeys). If you only surround yourself with people you admire, you will have esteem problems because you will always come up short in your internal comparisons.
If you only surround yourself with people you are currently associating with, you will never move ahead (because they are comfortable and don’t see a need to change.) If you have a mixture of both, you will have something to stretch your wings and strengthen your flying skills — and a comfort that you are not alone… and not so bad (better than the turkeys, anyway).
Over time, you will grow and will probably find that you gradually spend more time with those you admired (but they have now become your flock). And one day, you may find yourself looking at those who are flying even higher than you… and you begin to soar with them, too.
I hope that whenever you see that eagles/turkeys sign or bumper sticker that it will have new meaning to you and inspire you rather than deflate you.